I haven't been writing much (if you didn't notice, it's totally okay) and it felt like time to share why.
Today's prompt: Shout out five of your favorite bloggers. Who are your regular reads?
I love this! Any chance I get to brag about my favorite online friends, I will without a doubt. Here are five of the ladies I love dearly and cannot speak highly enough about!
Amber at Mr. Thomas & Me
Amber has become one of my absolute nearest and dearest online writer friends turned #collaboreads collaborator and pen pal and Rising teammate. She has a heart of gold, a beautiful way with words, and such an honest and unfiltered way of letting us into her life and soul through her online spaces. She loves deeply and it comes through everything she writes or creates in her shop. She shared her story through my Story Seeker project, so if you want to start somewhere and get to know her, check that out here! She is the host of several link-ups that I LOVE (including The Letter Link-Up, Speak Up, and, of course, #COLLABOREADS with me!) and it just shows her desire to build community wherever she goes.
Taylor at Schmusings
A long time ago, I stumbled upon beautiful hand lettering and calligraphy that I loved (probably through my wedding photog friends The Herrintons) and made my way to the website of the girl behind it all. Her name is Taylor, and she has since become someone I very much love and admire and appreciate. We struck up a conversation, and she shared her incredibly powerful story through Story Seeker, and I've just felt deeply connected to her after hearing what she has gone through and how she has kept her faith and kept chasing after the Lord despite it all. This girl is talented in so many ways. I love that she is now part of my team at The Rising and also writing on her newly designed website frequently too-- she is hilarious and honest and blunt and sassy and sarcastic and genuine all at the same time. It's a winning combo.
Hannah at Hannah Brencher
It's been quite a long time that I've been reading Hannah's words and falling in love with them. I don't think talking about her blog and her heart will quite do it all justice-- she's all about loving people well, connecting them and making them feel less alone, listening to their stories, mending broken hearts, all together sharing it through an intricately woven tapestry of words that break your heart and put it back together all in one. I've heard her speak at Yellow Conference and hugged her afterward, a little starstruck all the while. Her book is amazing, read it. Her blog is amazing too, read that also. Basically, just soak up all the HB you can, because she's the best of the best in this biz.
You can find her here: website / twitter / instagram / more love letters / if you find this email
Annie at The Free and Wild Blog
I have gotten to know this girl over the past few months and just adore her. We have a lot in common (like both being gluten free and vegan which is a rare find!) and I just absolutely love her heart for the Lord, her husband, her people, and her city. She also was part of Story Seeker, and I absolutely fell in love with Baltimore hearing her talk about it. This girl just has such a fire in her to chase after the Lord's will for her life and to serve her community. It's infectious and beautiful. I love reading her words.
You can find her here: website
Sara Gilmore at Wonder and Wandering
I don't have any idea how I first found Sara's site, but I'm so glad that I did. I have loved following her life and adventures and seeing her faith play out through the hard and the joyful times of life through her words. She's a truly gifted writer and I'm moved by her posts every time. I feel like I know her well even though we've never spoken, and I'm always quick to read every new thing she shares. Her words are rich, her heart big, her life a true picture of what it looks like to run the race the Lord sets before us.
If you looked at my Instagram, you might think I drink coffee and pick veggies in my garden and read books all day long, or that I just go on road trips and don't have a real job. I do all of those things quite a bit, but I actually do have a real job. I get to spend my days working for an incredible group called Rethink.
I realized recently that I don't know if I've ever really talked a lot about Rethink in this space, and it's about dang time that I did! Our team is small, but we are mighty. The men I call coworkers, I also call friends, but they feel more like big brothers. We all live in different cities, but we work together really well over the Internet and lots of video chats.
We do awesome, hard, challenging, rewarding work for a wide variety of clients-- a brewery, an author, a personal trainer, an outdoor adventure company, churches, nonprofits, a roofing company, and more. We create websites, design logos, write blogs, build and implement social media strategies, shoot video, take photos, publish ebooks, and the list goes on and on. Anything related to marketing or anything creative, we can and will do for you.
So that's the business side of Rethink...but that's not all that we do. We also created a totally different space on the Internet to house our words. We called it The Rising, and it was born in August 2014.
The Rising is my baby. It's been my passion project since we first had the idea to move Rethink's blog to its own platform. We had a small team of writers who poured out their hearts through their words and helped bring the whole thing to life.
This summer, after a lot of looking back and a lot of dreaming about the future, we decided The Rising needed a makeover. We had been in a hurry to launch the site originally, and now it was time to really take it to the next level. The website went down, and it's still down as we work to build something beautiful and engaging and truly great.
We've been talking to new writers and recruiting more people to join our team, and we have been AMAZED at how many people have come on board. We don't even have a live website to show them, but they're excited about what we're doing and they want to be part of it. That blows my mind.
Now, we're just a few days away from launching our new site full of new words from new writers. IT GOES LIVE ON SEPTEMBER 8. I cannot wait.
We share about faith, culture, and stories. We talk about the church and what we love about her and where we feel she needs to grow. We talk about the music we're listening to and loving. We share videos that are inspiring, stunning, and incredible works of art. We debate controversial topics. We share about the deep places in our own lives, our weaknesses, our struggles, our sin, our hope, our joys. It's a space where nothing is off limit and challenging the status quo is encouraged. We want to push things to their highest and best place-- elevating everything around us and leaving no stone unturned.
I love The Rising and every person who has ever been or who is currently a part of our team. I love Rethink and the men I get to work with who relentlessly encourage and support me and The Rising so well. I love that this is my job, but that it so often doesn't feel like work at all.
Shameless plug: If you are interested in writing, sharing music, photographs, or videos, or contributing to The Rising in any way at all, I would LOVE to talk to you! You can click on the "Write for Us" button HERE and shoot me a message, or just comment on this post and I'll be in touch.
The Rising will be live September 8. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook so you don't miss anything! There will be some fun things happening when we launch that we are excited for you to be in on.
We can't wait for you to see it all.
Here's the thing about writing: it's hard. It's the thing that makes me feel alive and like I'm doing what I was created to do, but it's also the thing that is a struggle full of resistance and excuses. I pour words onto the pages of my journal, but then stare at a blank screen and feel stuck. It's one thing to put my words down for my eyes only, and another thing altogether to hit publish and let them fly.
Here's the thing about writing: it's worth it. The hard posts, the ones that stay in the drafts for months too long, the ones that come with tears or shaking hands, they're worth it. They're the raw words, the ones that are real in the deepest and richest of ways, and they matter. I read words like that from writers I love and from strangers I've just stumbled upon, and my heart soars. Transparency is beautiful. Sharing struggles and successes and stories is essential-- we are all human, all struggling, all fighting through the days and trying to be brave, and when we can read words that remind us we're not alone, it's helpful. It's encouraging. It's uplifting. It's worth it.
Here's the thing about writing: it's a gift. I forget that a lot. It's a freedom to be able to share my words freely and send them out to anyone listening around the whole wide world. Not everyone has that freedom. I so often feel a pressure to publish, a pressure to be perfect, a pressure to have things figured out before I write them down...but it's a gift to write. Not pressure. Not a burden. When I see it that way, when I remember to be grateful for the chance to share and spill and journey through things with my words, it's a joy and a gift to do so.
Here's the thing about writing: you just have to do it. Inspiration may strike, or it may not. You may feel tired and exhausted and worn out and just not ready. You may not think you have anything to say. You may feel like you're not worthy to be a writer or you don't have the authority to speak into something. Just do it. Just write. Just put pen on paper and letters on the screen and do the work of it. Maybe in the end, it's not meant for the world. Okay. That's fine. You wrote anyway. You did the work. You pushed through and made something come to life, even if that something isn't polished or pretty or put together. It doesn't need to be. You just need to do it. And do it again. And keep doing it. When it's easy, when it's hard, when you're excited about it and when you feel anxious, when it's sunny outside and when it's storming, when you feel alone or when you feel wrapped up in love, when you've been learning a lot or when you're going through a dry spell, just keep doing it. Keep writing. Keep working. Keep journeying and writing it all down and seeing what happens.
Here's the thing about writing:
This last week, so many things I read just resonated with me SO MUCH. And I want you all to read them all now. Here's a roundup of the best things I've read online recently! Enjoy.
"Don’t be the next anybody. Be deeply, weirdly, completely, totally you." // Shauna Niequist drops an awesome bomb with this post.
"I think my generation is venturing into some seriously uncharted waters, because while we’re hesitant to label relationships, we do participate in some deviation of them." // Jordana Narin won this year's Modern Love College Essay Contest from The New York Times, and it's a strikingly true look at what our generation has turned love and relationships into.
"If we were on a coffee date, I'd encourage you to write yourself letters. Buy yourself a journal and just write to you. Dear you and Love, me are powerful things." // Amber Thomas writes these posts as if you were on a coffee date with her, and every single time, I so deeply wish I was.
"For introverts who generate ideas best without the looming presence of others, knowing the topic in advance is key." // This post on the TED Blog is GREAT. Every brainstorm meeting I've been a part of has been stressful for me as an introvert, and this post has fantastic tips for making that NOT the case.
"We desperately need someone to tell us we are going to make it. To simple say, "I'll be there when you make it", and "I'll still be here while you make your way"." // Katherine Henson could have pulled these words from my very core, they struck me so deeply. They're the words I've been feeling and wrestling with but not really knowing how to say. These are the kinds of people I want.
"So here is my suggestion: Read a bit of poetry today." // Sarah Bessey reminded me of what my heart knows to be true: I need to surround myself with beautiful words that slow me down and open my eyes to lovely things. I need to read poetry today and every day.
An incredible thing was born in 2014. It was called #fireworkpeople and it has been changing the world (and my own life) every day since. It's a community of the most creative, alive, on fire women I have ever known, and out of that group have come some of my favorite new friendships.
One of those new friends is Amber. From the very first time I saw her tweets pop into my feed during the weekly #fireworkpeople Twitter chats, I knew I was going to just love this girl. She is an absolute powerhouse-- her words are stunning, eloquent, bold and real all at once and they shoot straight to your heart. I can't get enough.
She makes every single woman she comes in contact with feel seen, heard and loved all within a single second. I've never even met her in real life and I feel like she's one of my dearest friends. She is the kind of friend you want in your corner because she just makes you feel invincible and unstoppable.
She's a phenomenal writer, and her blog is one of the few I religiously read every single day. She is the most gracious and welcoming of hostesses, in her own life and even online with the link-ups she organizes and runs so wonderfully. She's a beautiful wife who so evidently adores the man she married, and a faithful follower of her Savior. Her heart for building community even amongst people who have never met in real life is so encouraging and inspiring-- she is someone who will pour out everything she is and has to bring people together, and I've seen it make such an unforgettable and lasting impact on so many lives already.
Everything Amber touches seems to turn to gold. She radiates such joy and light everywhere she goes, like she's made of glitter that's just spilling from her bones. I cannot wait for the day I get to breathe the same air as her, hug her so tight, and just talk for hours over huge mugs of coffee somewhere.
This girl is grace and grit all wrapped up in love with a beaming smile, gorgeous tattoos, a heart of gold and a selfless servant's spirit. She's a gem and I cannot wait for you to read her story.
I’m Amber. Born and raised and now settled for life in a small town laying happily under the Californian sun. I'm an adventurer and homebody, a misfit and His beloved, trouble and grace; I'm more contradiction than constant. For years I worked hard to keep my God and my blog separate. Then life fell apart and God brought my many pieces together for one cause: to write for His glory instead of mine. Though my story is flawed and messy and mostly imperfect, His love is redeeming and graceful which affords me the amazing opportunity to share what is great in life: Him.
I grew up between rose bushes, flowers turned to the sky, thorns prepared to protect and pierce. I grew up snipping thick stems at a diagonal so my mom could display the scarlet, salmon, saffron buds atop her white wooden table. There are chapters, spiny and fragrant, wrapped around those stems, full of those blooms and their soft like velvet petals.
On Sunday mornings, I'd wander the yard from blooming bush to blooming bush, coordinating the colors of the buds until my bouquet's composition felt just right. Rubbing the petals between my fingers, smelling their scent, I fell in love with the yellow roses, my namesake: Amber Queen. I loved their lemony scent, their smiling faces, their small thorns.
I grew up in soccer uniforms, grass stained and numbered, more devoted to the team than to my singular self. I grew up chasing balls covered in black and white octagons, sweating profusely in summer sun and shivering in my sweats come the winter chill. There are chapters, victorious and exhausted, laying on those fields, among the greenest of grasses and sloppiest of mud puddles.
Every weekend spent geared up and laced into leather cleats, tromping wildly like a herd, back and forth, to and fro in the name of victory. Sweaty and exhilarated, I learned there was no I in team, that the individual isn't much without support -for me, ten girls in matching uniforms. Muscles sore from the effort, voice scratchy from the game-time communication, I thanked Him for community in church, life, and teams.
I grew up wishing to be a wife, dedicated and honest, just as I'd seen exemplified by my own mom. I grew up praying with my parents and brother in the mornings before catching the bus and listening to their muffled conversations from my bed in the evenings, There are chapters, tender and care-filled, in those treasured moments, smelling like morning coffee and evening glasses of wine.
Always, from my earliest of memories, I'd notice the small moments within our every day routines, watching them love one another unapologetically. I'd offer silent prayers asking for that kind of love to Him, knowing full well He understood. Following them through life, always aware of their tightly-linked hands, I would wonder what it felt like inside their hearts -warm and happy, like drinking hot cocoa covered in whipped cream in the chill of snow.
I grew up on California beaches, blond hair always bleached white by the sun, skin kissed deep shades of tan. I grew up cleaning sand from my nail beds and sore from time among the waves. There are chapters, beautiful and salty, on those beaches, covered in sand and filled with the entitled caw of seagulls.
If even for just a moments time, I'd still on the shore and watch the tides. In, in, in they'd come, closer and closer to kissing the beach wall. Then out, a retreat, as though shy or scared. The water seemed so in control, so dominant as it tossed those surfers -small and black in their wet suits- to and fro on the waves. I'd stand there and think about what gave the water strength: gravity, a moon's orbit, magnetic forces at play.
I grew up unaware of the chapters, the characters, the differing settings. The way they'd transition in and out of my life, changing my heart, rubbing against my story like two rocks in the waves -slowly softening one another's edges. I grew up sure I was in control, I was making the way, I wrote my tale.
Here I am standing on the shore where six years ago I was on a first date with the man who would be my husband. Reflectively, I roll the strong stem of a yellow rose between my fingers and stare out at the sea. The waves roll in, the white foam reminding me of frothed milk on my morning coffee. The seagulls yell to one another, only rivaled by young girls chasing a soccer ball in the sand. He stands beside me, silent, and I smell his scent, pheromones, on the salty air. And here, the chapters are a cocktail, mixed together intoxicating me in gloriously emotional ways.
The chapters, seemingly separate, blend together as a novel, not yet ending, instead unfolding around me, within me. The characters are alive, the setting transforming bit by bit, the forces of plot ever-moving. And, I decide, this is a tale to be cherished, beloved, shared, until I see The End.
Glittery goodness and a GREAT organization? I'm sold. I want basically every single thing in the 31bits new holiday collection!
Soul Desire : This sermon series at Hope is rocking my world in the best way. I can't stop thinking about it and it's changing everything about how I live on the day to day. So good.
How to be "less busy" // This girl can put words to the best and most beautiful parts of life. This one made me smile and made me cry, and I want everyone to read it.
An art show in the open concourse of my church, with poetry on the walls surrounded by images that brought words to life in a perfect, simple, elegant marriage. A friend standing in front of the crowd, reading her words, sharing her heart, unraveling the story of a summer in her life in a mesmerizing way. Another friend beside her on a park bench, magic coming from each note of her cello in an enchanting way. It made me think this: To see art will move you, but to hear the heart of the artist and the story it all will absolutely captivate you. Thankful for that night.
A goal in the last 14 seconds of overtime to bring the W home for my Caps. Cheering wildly with thousands of my fellow fans in a crowded Verizon Center full of people rocking the red.
Apple picking at Carter Mountain with my best friends/small group from JMU...I love when traditions continue even though we are all living in different places these days. The best.
The new CAUSEBOX from Sevenly-- I am all about supporting organizations that give back and are working for social good...and getting a box full of awesome products every few months is AWESOME.
I just registered for the #fireworkpeople Masterclass and am SO excited about it. "The #fireworkpeople masterclass is a live, five-month journey that will help you live the life you’re hungry for, say yes to the fire in your soul, blow up all that is holding you back, and live out your epic-sized purpose to change the world." Yes. So much yes.
JOHNNYSWIM came out with a Christmas album and I all of a sudden became that girl listening to Christmas music in November. Not sorry.
Loved this perspective from my friend David-- Want to Be Depressed? Know Everything.
Made this for dinner earlier this week and have had leftovers for lunch every day and it's just delicious. (Yes, I'm vegan, but I eat seafood occasionally. Let a girl cheat a little bit!)
What are you loving lately? Comment below with your must-reads, must-listens, must-sees, or must-shops!
So much of the work that I do on my little corner of the internet here is work I do alone. I write at my kitchen table with just the clicking of my keys for company, I wander around city streets with just my camera to scout out shots, I doodle and journal sitting on my couch with just a glass of wine by my side.
But this year, I learned something. My work is so much better when I don't do it all alone. Even more than that, my heart is better, my soul is better, my life is better when I don't do it all alone.
It started with Rethink Creative Group back in January. I found myself on the phone with a guy who lived in Texas who had gotten connected to my blog, and he asked me to join a team of several other men who were using their creative talents to glorify the Lord and change the world.
I had been a blogger before that, but I wasn't consistent, I wasn't very committed, and I honestly wasn't really very good either. But those guys saw potential in me, saw what my heart was after, and they invited me in to their community and I became part of their family.
My writing improved dramatically over the months that followed, and it's because I had a team backing me every step of the way and encouraging me to grow as a person and as a writer. I wasn't just writing by myself and putting it on my blog without anyone else looking at it, I was now collaborating and brainstorming and working with other people who challenged my work and made it the best it could be.
Now, as the editor over Rethink's new blog, The Rising, I get to be part of building that community even more and taking it to new places and depths, and it's an incredible honor and challenge and gift. The collaborations of our team and all of its members, with each of their individual hearts and gifts and voices, are unbelievable and so beautiful. None of us could accomplish on our own what we can do as a team.
At some point this summer, I caught wind of something on Twitter called #fireworkpeople. If you follow me on Twitter, you've probably seen me blowing up your feed with that hashtag every week. Curiosity got the best of me, and I clicked on the hashtag one day. I was amazed at the positivity, joy and encouragement that radiated from the tweets that filled my screen.
I knew I wanted to be in this group, if for no other reason than I wanted that kind of light in my life. I joined the Facebook group and jumped right in to the weekly Twitter parties (Tuesday nights at 9 pm-- just search #fireworkpeople and join us!)
Now, again, I'm reminded astoundingly that we are so much better when we are together. People from around the world are joining this group of talented, driven, passionate, radiant creatives of all kinds, and the community is growing rapidly. It's not surprising, really.
We are all hungry to be seen, hungry to be heard, hungry to be loved and appreciated and valued. When we are alone, nobody is there to see us, hear us, appreciate us. When we are together, when we join in, when we live in community, we have people that see us. They hear us. They wrap us up in love and appreciate everything about us.
I'm better because I'm part of these groups. A better human, a better writer, a better dreamer and believer and passion-follower. These people aren't always necessarily like me, I haven't met most of them in real life, they aren't perfect, sometimes I disagree with them...but they're my people.
They're the ones that I share my heart with, share my words with, dream big ideas with, problem solve with, laugh with, cry with, celebrate with, change the world with. They're the ones that remind me every day that life is a beautiful thing and there is always something to celebrate, even in the midst of overwhelming uncertainty. They're the ones that make me laugh (shout out to my girl Ansley!), that make me feel unstoppable (Ashley, the force behind #fireworkpeople, is the best at this!), that free me to dream big and encourage me endlessly (here's to David, the dreamer behind Rethink!).
We are all so much better when we are together.
In the early days of my writing with Rethink, I wrote a whole post called "Your Art Needs Other Art." I wrote these words then, and find them even more true and meaningful today.
Let the art of others inspire you. Let it challenge you. Let it refresh you. Let it make your art better.
The work that you do may be work you've always done alone. I get that. But your life doesn't have to be lived alone. You can bring all that you are and all that you do and make and create into community, and I promise it will be for good.
If you want this kind of a fiery, beautiful, life-changing community to call home, #fireworkpeople would absolutely love to welcome you with open arms and big virtual bear hugs. If you are a writer and want to be part of a team that's changing the world for Jesus, The Rising would love to hear from you.
This post is part of the #fireworkpeople blog tour! To see all other posts on the tour, click here.
If you've been visiting this site for any length of time, you've probably seen it undergo some visual changes. By some, I really mean quite a lot.
I'm never 100% satisfied with the look and feel of this site and my blog, and I'm constantly tweaking templates and making my own changes. I have this list of things in my mind that I want my site to be and have and do, and I finally decided it would be good to write them down.
- I want my site to be clean, have lots of white space and be simple, calming and aesthetically pleasing.
- I want navigation to be clear, easy and unobtrusive.
- I want my personality to shine through each page, whether through words or images, and for people who visit here to leave feeling like they know the real Rachel, and that they've seen Jesus through that as well. I never want the glory to come back to me, but to Him alone.
- I want my site to be easily adaptable to new things, whether that be a new page hosting posts about adventures I've had recently (RADventures is too good to pass up on, don't you think?!) or a shop someday (stay tuned...). I want it to be flexible and to grow as I do.
- I want to create all content on my site, from photos to graphics to blog posts (with the exception of posts from guest bloggers!), so it's as true to me as it can be.
o, with all of this in mind, I spent my weekend browsing around and brainstorming and working on what I feel is a cohesive, authentic design for my site. I would love to get your feedback and hear what you think of all the new changes! I'm sure it will continue to evolve over time, but for now, this feels right. It's a blessing to have a tiny corner of the Internet to call mine, and I hope that you are encouraged by it every time you visit. I love having you here!